Yarmolenko facing make-or-break season at West Ham

This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…

Andriy Yarmolenko is set for a make-or-break season at West Ham United.

The Ukraine international, signed for a fee of £17.5m from Borussia Dortmund last summer, Yarmolenko made just nine Premier League appearances for the club prior to a season-ending Achilles injury.

A good dribbler of the ball with an eye for goal, the 29-year-old showed flashes of his talent in east London, scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Everton and laying on an assist in a victory by the same scoreline against Manchester United.

His injury came at a time when he was just getting into his stride.

He made his comeback on Thursday, however, playing 45 minutes as the Hammers beat Austrian side SCR Altach 3-2 in a pre-season friendly.

The Irons, of course, are thin in the striking department after the departures of Marko Arnautovic, Lucas Perez and Andy Carroll.

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They desperately need attacking talent and Yarmolenko’s return to form offers them a versatile option.

While he is not an out-and-out striker, he is a flying right winger who can supplement the threat offered by the likes of Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals and Felipe Anderson.

Putting all four on the same pitch may seem like a stretch but utilising one of them as a false nine – perhaps Anderson – could be a solution for Pellegrini if the club are unable to acquire another striker in this transfer window.

Per Understat, Yarmolenko averaged 1.78 shots per game, along with 0.99 key passes and an expected goals (xG) rate of 1.25. He had an xG-per-90 of 0.25, too, meaning he is likely to score at least once in every four games.

If he were to play an entire season, that would come out to between nine and 10 goals in a campaign.

That’s an excellent return for a player who normally features on the wing and those stats do not take into account the intangible of form. If a player hits a hot streak, one can expect that number to rise.

However, the same is true if they fall into a funk, and that is why one has to feel that Yarmolenko faces a make-or-break season.

He was one of the club’s marquee acquisitions last summer and yet he has barely played, much less had any opportunity to repay his transfer fee.

If he is given a chance to play regularly this season, he could well grab it with both hands.

Or he could see his form diminish; serious injuries can often rob players of their pace and finishing ability.

West Ham simply have to wait and see; if it goes wrong, he may not get another chance.